As millions of voters trooped to polling precincts last May 9 to choose the country’s next president, it is interesting to look at the hometowns of the top five candidates from a motorist’s or tourist’s point of view. Having the president as resident brings much pride to the place and the visitor influx that goes with it.
Below are the cities of the presidential aspirants which we can visit even after the election fever has simmered down.
Pit Stop 1: Manila. The country’s capital since the Spanish era, the city underwent a renaissance of sorts with the urban renewal projects of Mayor Isko Moreno which made him a rock star local executive in such a short time.
The once-obscure public plazas and the greeneries were spruced up, Jones Bridge was given back its pre-World War look, and the City Hall Underpass was transformed into an art piece, transforming the city to an Instagram sensation.
The redeveloped Kartilla ng Katipunan Park and the adjoining Mehan Garden became promenade, al fresco dining area, and stopover for bikers. Just recently, the iconic Manila Zoo was given a new lease on life, adding to the list of alternative family oriented recreation spots.
Pit Stop 2: Imus. The hometown of Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, this city has somewhat retained its Old World charm despite its rapid urbanization and industrialization. The town’s población or town proper still evokes the good old days when it was the hotbed of the Philippine Revolution with the well-preserved ancestral mansions, public plaza, cathedral and historic spots where Filipinos and Spanish troops clashed.
A must-see is the Battle of Alapan Shrine which marks the spot of the vital victory of the revolutionaries under Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo against Spain, and where the newly sewn Philippine flag was first unveiled ahead of the proclamation of independence two weeks later.
A popular outdoor hangout place is the so-called Tokwahan in Carsadang Bago where joggers, bikers and motorcyclists converge on weekends before proceeding to their destination.
Pit Stop 3: Naga City. Situated some 400 kms south of Manila, this is monikered “Heart of Bicol” because of its historical and cultural significance in the region. It is also dubbed “Pilgrimage City” because of its 310-year old Peñafrancia Festival, the country’s biggest and oldest Marian devotion, not to mention the numerous Spanish-period churches around it.
On top of religious spots, the city is also a foodies’ colony with a plethora of home-grown dining outlets showcasing Bicol dishes and Filipino favorites. The outskirts are dotted with garden and farm-themed restaurants, cafes, and resorts, where you can feast on a country-style meal while gazing at majestic Mt. Isarog.
A sought-after spot is CamSur Watersports Complex (CWC), a recreational hub whose main attractions are a world-class six-cable wakepark, and a man-made lagoon for kayaking. Situated within the sprawling provincial capitol grounds in Pili town, it has hosted the prestigious Iron Man triathlon and a host of sporting events.
A new must-experience just outside the city’s doorsteps is the Camaligan River Cruise, which sails along the scenic riverbanks of neighboring towns. Beach lovers will be entranced with the powdery sands of Caramoan peninsula, which has hosted the Survivor series several times.
Those who want a driving adventure can try the 8-hour drive or take the longer airconditioned bus ride which Vice President Leni Robredo has been riding for the longest time. Evening bus rides are the most practical and economical public mobility as it transports you to Naga while you sleep.
Pit Stop 4: Ilocos Norte. While born in Manila, former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. considers this northern province as his home having served as its vice governor, governor, and congressman.
With a string of attractions—Paoay’s Sand Dunes, Lake and St. Augustine Church, beaches of Pagudpud and Currimao, Bangui Wind Farm, Luna Shrine in Badoc, it is a top-of-mind destination for road trippers who want to drive through the whole Ilocos Region.
The provincial capital of Laoag City is the hub of air and land transport, as well as tourist establishments which include the popular Fort Ilocandia Hotel.
Batac City is the hometown of Marcoses, with the Ferdinand Marcos Presidential Center, the museum-mausoleum of the late strongman at its core. Dubbed as the “Home of Great Leaders,” its prominent sons also include revolutionary priest Gregorio Aglipay and Gen. Artemio Ricarte.
While here, don’t forget to grab a bite of the traditional empanada at the river park which is perhaps you’ll ever taste in the Ilocandia.
Pit Stop 5: Sarangani. Nearly everyone knows that Manny Pacquiao hails from General Santos City, but got to represent this neighboring province as congressman and later its first-ever senator. During his boxing matches, he gets to be introduced by the ring barker as the “fighting congressman/senator from Sarangani” before getting ready to rumble.
And much like the eight-time boxing champ, it is a pound-for-pound champ in its own right with its cultural, adventure and natural wonders despite its small size. Think of it as a flyweight who ascended into the welterweight division over the years who can now take on bigger foes in the tourism arena.
The province boasts of powdery white sands all over its 200-km coastline, mesmerizing dive spots, whitewater rafting, indigenous people’s cultural villages, best-tasting tuna, and a 2,000-year old prehistoric cave.